Is it time for my favourite bookish meme already? O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! This is a monthly meme hosted by Kate where we all start with the same book but then each embark on our own journeys, via leaps and bounds of associations, connections and imagination (and cheating, quite frankly, in my case!).
This month’s starting point is The End of the Affair by Graham Greene, which I haven’t read in a long time, but which I seem to remember as one of his better books (although not as fun and fast-paced as Stamboul Train). I like the theme of lost loves, of brooding over ‘what ifs’, and then being disappointed by the people in our past, but this book also incorporates a very strong religious slant, expressing Greene’s often conflicting emotions about Catholicism.
It’s this element of faith that links it to my first book in the chain. Romanian author Doina Rusti’s Mâţă Vinerii (translated by James Christian Brown as The Book of Perilous Dishes) has just come out with Neem Tree Press and it’s a delightful romp through Bucharest in 1798, featuring followers of the ancient (pagan) cult of Satori, who have the power to cure, influence or kill via their recipes, and who are now hunting for their missing recipe book lest it should fall into the wrong hands.
Satori is coincidentally also a creature somewhat like a horse in the Legend of Zelda, so my next link relies on horses. Black Beauty was a classic, of course, and I adored the Jill and Her Pony series by Ruby Ferguson, but one book that really stood out for me about the connection between a human and a horse was My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara, in which a bit of a misfit boy very, very slowly befriends and tames a half-wild mustang filly. But all sorts of dramatic and sad things happen next – suffice it to say, I cried a LOT reading that book as a nine-year-old.
Another children’s book featuring animals which made me cry (and the animated film is even worse!) is Watership Down by Richard Adams. The beautiful descriptions of the various rabbits and their behaviours were what drew me in, but of course the destruction of their habitat and the dangers they face filled me with anxiety.
When I originally saw the title ‘Watership Down’, I thought it was a space fantasy, almost certainly something to do with spaceships, so that is my next link, to the classic in the spaceship genre: 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke. It’s an ambitious and intriguing book, but I have to admit I prefer the film version by Stanley Kubrick, which is not something I often say about books.
Of course the next link will be another book that I enjoyed but I marginally prefer the screen adaptation of it, thanks to fabulous performances by Jack Nicholson and the supporting cast, is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. I’d still recommend both reading and watching this influential book, cry for freedom, a manifesto against authoritarianism and manipulation of any kind, whether forceful and subtle.
There’s been a bit of an animal theme going on in this month’s set of links, so let me end on another obvious link via the name of a bird in the title of a book. I was a great Julian Barnes fan once upon a time (although I have loved his two recent books, The Only Story and The Noise of Time, they are far less experimental and fun than some of his earlier works) and one of my favourite books by him is Flaubert’s Parrot. I can obviously relate to his passion for all things French!
Only one book in translation this month, but we have still travelled quite far afield: from the old market squares of Bucharest, to the wilderness of Wyoming, from the disappearing fields of Hampshire to space, from an Oregon psychiatric hospital to France in search of the ‘authentic’ parrot which we can never find. Where will your literary travels take you?